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Is The English Wine Industry Cooling?

English wine production was down almost 20 percent in 2016, but a record number of vines are set to be planted in 2017, according to English Wine Producers (EWP) new data. The EWP released its report just ahead of last week’s Annual Trade & Press Tasting.

The EWP said 2 million fewer bottles were produced last year than during record-breaking 2014, which saw 6.3 million bottles. Coupled with a late-spring frost that hit England and France, 2017 is likely to also fall short.

Growers in Sussex and Kent appeared to be particularly hard hit. Vineyards closer to the coasts tended to avoid the worst of the damage.

Neil Taylor, a partner at Reynolds Estate Wines and head of data at the London Vinters Exchange, said, “It wouldn’t surprise me if in some areas yields are down by as much as 50 percent or more on the older vines and by as much as 80 percent on the younger vines.”

Chris Foss, head of the Plumpton College Wine Department, said the frost hit vineyards hard. “The thing is, I’ve been in wine 40 years, and this is the worst I’ve seen. It’s not just us, Champagne’s been hit, Bordeaux…loads of people have been hurt,” he said.

2017 To Be Record Planting Year

Despite unpredictability, confidence in the English wine industry remains high. In the last 10 years, hectarage (acreage) of planted vines has more than doubled and the EWP predicts 50 percent additional growth by 2020, resulting in 10 million bottles produced.

One million vines are set to be planted this year–the largest amount ever in a single year–two-thirds of which will be devoted to creating sparkling wine.

“With Waitrose now having its own vineyard, 600 acres of vines being planted at Rathfinny, and Tattinger planting a vineyard in Sussex, it is hard to say English viticulture is in decline,” said viticultural consultant Richard Selley.